Category Archives: nature

Friday Poem: The names of the Hare

‘The Names of the Hare’ is a poem written in the late thirteenth century, originally in Middle English, that is attributed to a Shropshire family on the Welsh borders. The poem is said to be a ritual to be recited by a hunter on his first encounter with a hare, and the seventy seven different names given to the hare in the poem were supposed, on recital, to deliver it to the hunter’s power.

The man the hare has met
will never be the better of it
except he lay down on the land
what he carries in his hand—
be it staff or be it bow—
and bless him with his elbow
and come out with this litany
with devotion and sincerity
to speak the praises of the hare.
Then the man will better fare.
‘The hare, call him scotart,
big-fellow, bouchart,
the O’Hare, the jumper,
the rascal, the racer.
Beat-the-pad, white-face,
funk-the-ditch, shit-ass.
The wimount, the messer,
the skidaddler, the nibbler,
the ill-met, the slabber.
The quick-scut, the dew-flirt,
the grass-biter, the goibert,
the home-late, the do-the-dirt.
The starer, the wood-cat,
the purblind, the furze cat,
the skulker, the bleary-eyed,
the wall-eyed, the glance-aside
and also the hedge-springer.
The stubble-stag, the long lugs,
the stook-deer, the frisky legs,
the wild one, the skipper,
the hug-the-ground, the lurker,
the race-the-wind, the skiver,
the shag-the-hare, the hedge-squatter,
the dew-hammer, the dew-hoppper,
the sit-tight, the grass-bounder,
the jig-foot, the earth-sitter,
the light-foot, the fern-sitter,
the kail-stag, the herb-cropper.
The creep-along, the sitter-still,
the pintail, the ring-the-hill,
the sudden start,
the shake-the-heart,
the belly-white,
the lambs-in-flight.
The gobshite, the gum-sucker,
the scare-the-man, the faith-breaker,
the snuff-the-ground, the baldy skull,
(his chief name is scoundrel.)
The stag sprouting a suede horn,
the creature living in the corn,
the creature bearing all men’s scorn,
the creature no one dares to name.’
When you have got all this said
then the hare’s strength has been laid.
Then you might go faring forth—
east and west and south and north,
wherever you incline to go—
but only if you’re skilful too.
And now, Sir Hare, good-day to you.
God guide you to a how-d’ye-do
with me: come to me dead
in either onion broth or bread.

Translation from the Middle English by Seamus Heaney

Summer’s loss

Heart broken she withdraws
as every winter
into dark soil
as every winter

The promise of the stars nightly turning
the sinking and turning of constellations
the track of planets wandering  across the sky
say that she will return

Time past she was encouraged
by midwinter fires
now we trust to orbital mechanics

Copyright © 2019 Kim Whysall-Hammond

 

Winding Road


The winding road I walk
wanders through country hedges
stuffed full of brambles and bomb-weed
across hay meadows to where
gauze mist veils distant hills.
Rust red cows huddle by a gate
tails swishing away flies
and rooks shout from their rookery
hurling bird banter from tall tree to tall tree.
Later the Sun will lower down to the west
shadows will merge and meld
owls will hunt. But now
rabbits nibble in golden light
and a peace settles deep inside.

Copyright © 2020 Kim Whysall-Hammond

The weird font is due to my struggles with the new block editor. 

Chalklands

Chalk undulates across Southern England
Hills, gentle yet steep
Can be overtopped by clay peppered with flints
So treasured by the old folk

As old as the hills is true here
The chalk is a two hundred million year ocean
Stiffened and folded over time
By our living planet

Several human species
Have hunted  in these valleys
Have dug into and sculpted these hills
Have left their ghosts for us to trace

The ancient monuments we treasure
Hill forts, stone circles, long barrows
Are but modern remnants
Compared to the first folk

My hills have deep roots

Copyright © 2017 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Friday poem: Blackberry picking

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.
By Seamus Heany

Across the road

Was a whole different universe,
of course the road was the A40
or the Western Avenue as we called it then.
One side urban west London
the other a seemingly limitless sprawl of brambles
riddled with paths sized for squeezing small children
as if the local mothers had arranged it so
that adults could not blackberry but only
give instructions from the edges.
Everyone brambled in summer
red stained children limping home
at days end with huge leaking bags of berries
and a future full of pies and jam.
The real magic of that place was a stream
clear and sparkling, running over pebbles
in places deep and wide, where
baby brothers could be washed
and drinking cups filled.
The shallows were my solitary joy in spring when
armed with a net and an empty jam jar I searched for
blushed red male Sticklebacks, to bring them home
and watch them, marvelling at
their writhing sinuous shapes,
those outsized blue-green eyes
the sharp stickles on each back.

Copyright © 2020 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Taking part in Sarah Connor’s challenge over at Earthweal.

Here’s Sarah’s prompt:

“So, for this prompt, I’d like you to think about how you first felt connected to nature – maybe as a child, or as an adult. Some of those lost words may inspire you, or you may have your own lost word (or world?) that gave you a sense of wonder at the natural world around you. Maybe you collected caterpillars, or watched birds on a bird-table, or squatted down to watch beetles, or looked up to see squirrels in the treetops.”

Chorus

Serenading light’s rising,
waking at a first feeble glimmer
creeping from the east.
Each bird a separate voice
whole body singing from tails depth.
Performing a duty since the original melodious call
heralding dawns radiance
thankful for a daily miracle.
Worshipping warmth’s return
and the new day.

Copyright © 2018 Kim Whysall-Hammond

The winding road


The winding road I walk
wanders through country hedges
stuffed full of brambles and bomb-weed
across hay meadows to where
gauze mist veils distant hills.
Rust red cows huddle by a gate
tails swishing away flies
and rooks shout from their rookery
hurling bird banter from tall tree to tall tree.
Later the Sun will lower down to the west
shadows will merge and meld
owls will hunt. But now
rabbits nibble in golden light
and a peace settles deep inside.

Copyright © 2020 Kim Whysall-Hammond Last week the new block editor allowed me to select a font for my posts. this week, this is not possible. I'm stuck with this weird typewriter font!